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Dog sitting in a field of flowers
Dog sitting in a field of flowers

Understanding Arthritis in Dogs and How to Manage It

Arthritis is a condition that can affect dogs throughout their lives, but with the right care, they can still enjoy many happy years. Early detection and a tailored management plan are key to helping your dog thrive.

There are various ways to treat arthritis in dogs, and the best method depends on your dog’s specific needs. Some dogs might need surgery, but all dogs with arthritis should have a comprehensive care plan. This plan includes pain relief, a balanced diet, controlled exercise, changes to their living environment, and monitoring.

As your dog’s condition improves, their medication might be reduced or even stopped. The care plan will change over time to keep your dog as stable and comfortable as possible, ensuring they live an active life for many years before possibly needing more intensive care in their older age.

The main goal in managing arthritis is to control inflammation in the joints, which can lead to pain and further damage if not addressed. You might notice signs like swelling or warmth in the joints, but often the inflammation is not visible. Regardless, it’s crucial to manage this inflammation to prevent further damage and pain.

The main objectives in managing arthritis in dogs are to:

  • Relieve pain
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Improve mobility
  • Slow down the worsening of the disease


No single treatment can achieve all these goals, so a combination of different treatments and management strategies – known as multimodal management, is often necessary.

Multimodal Management and the 5-point care plan

Managing arthritis in dogs involves a combination of treatments and lifestyle changes to address their unique needs. Here’s a breakdown of the 5-point arthritis care plan:


  1. Medication for Pain and Inflammation:
    • Medicines like NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are crucial. They help ease your dog’s pain and reduce joint inflammation, slowing down the worsening of the disease.
Icons displaying lightning bolt, bones and dog running


  1. Diet:
    • Feeding your dog food rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help with join inflammation due to arthritis13.
    • Maintaining a healthy weight is also vital. Extra weight puts more strain on their joints, and fat tissue can contribute to inflammation.
    • Regular weigh-ins and body condition scoring can help monitor your dog’s weight.
Brown labrador on weighing scales


  1. Exercise and Rehabilitation:
    • Controlled exercise helps maintain muscle strength, supporting the joints and easing pain.
    • Keeping your dog active also improves their mobility and exercise alone has been shown to have a pain-relieving effect4.
    • Rehabilitation therapies like physiotherapy or hydrotherapy can further strengthen muscles and reduce pain and inflammation5.

       Dog and their human getting ready to leave the house together


  2. Making Home Adjustments:
    • Simple changes at home can make a big difference, can aid your dog’s mobility and improve their comfort and welfare6.
    • Consider using ramps, non-slip mats, and orthopaedic beds to help your dog move around more comfortably.

       Human helping dog up to sofa using a moveable staircase


  3. Regular Monitoring:
    • Keep an eye on any changes in your dog’s behaviour or mobility, and maintain regular vet visits to ensure they receive the best possible care.
       Human filling in a questionnaire with dog


Remember, treating arthritis early and working closely with your vet and other pet care professionals will give your dog the best chance at a happy and healthy life.

Roxy the dog

Understanding NSAIDs in Arthritis Treatment for Dogs

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) play a crucial role in managing arthritis in dogs. They help by blocking the enzymes that cause inflammation and pain in the joints. There are two main types of these enzymes: COX-1 and COX-2. COX-1 is beneficial for protecting the kidneys, stomach, and aiding in blood clotting, while COX-2 is mainly responsible for causing inflammation and pain. The goal is to reduce the harmful effects of COX-2 while preserving the beneficial effects of COX-1. Many veterinary NSAIDs are designed to do just that, focusing on reducing inflammation and pain without disrupting the positive functions of COX-1. By selectively targeting these enzymes, we can help manage joint inflammation and pain, allowing your dog to live a more comfortable life.


Exploring Additional Treatment Options for Dog Arthritis

Exploring Other Less Commonly Used Medications for Dog Arthritis

Why Might Vets Use Unlicensed Medications?

Sometimes, there might not be a medication specifically approved for a certain condition in dogs. In these cases, vets might use medications “off-label” to provide the best possible care for your dog. They will explain the reasons and any potential risks involved, and they might ask for your consent to proceed with this approach.

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